Lidl wins High Court action over Aldi-commissioned price survey
Lidl claimed flawed methodology was used in price survey which put Aldi in first place and Lidl in second
8 March 2022 | 0
Lidl Ireland has emerged victorious from a High Court action relating to what the supermarket chain claims was a flawed Aldi-commissioned price survey which Lidl came second in.
Grant Thornton conducted the survey, and Lidl claimed the methodology used was flawed. It subsequently made a formal complaint to the regulatory body for chartered accountants, Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI).
According to an independent committee of the CAI, Grant Thornton had no case to answer. However, Lidl argued that this decision by the committee was legally flawed and should therefore be quashed.
The Irish Times reports that Mr Justice Cian Ferriter agreed that the complaint should be remitted for fresh reconsideration by the committee.
Grant Thornton carried out the survey in February 2018 and the results which were published in the media found that on average, Aldi was the cheaper retailer.
However, Lidl disputed the methodology used, stating that in several instances, it failed to compare like-for-like products. Lidl also claimed the prices were not in-store, but came from a master list.
In total, 62 different items were compared across Aldi, Lidl, Tesco, SuperValu and Dunnes Stores.
Representing Lidl, Feichin McDonagh SC with Keith Spencer, claimed the results had called into question the independence, objectivity and professional integrity of Grant Thornton – all of which was denied by the accountancy firm.
The committee found that in spite of methodology weaknesses, the survey was not flawed to the extent that it constituted poor professional performance by Grant Thornton.
An independent review of this decision by the committee found evidence that the price survey had not compared like with like, it was alleged. At this point, the issue was returned to the CAI committee for further consideration.
Later, in 2020, the committee said Grant Thornton did not have a case to answer.
High Court judicial review proceedings were subsequently brought by Lidl against both the CAI and the CAI’s independent review committee with the goal of setting aside their decision.
The High Court judge said he believed that the matter was suitable for judicial review, adding that Lidl had a right to make a complaint to the CAI, and have that complaint investigated and also to have the committee’s decision independently reviewed.
The judge said he was satisfied that the committee had breached its requirement to explain why it held that Grant Thornton had no case to answer.
However, the court did not believe that the CAI and the committee had acted in breach of fair procedures as claimed by Lidl.
Quashing the decision, the judge said he was remitting the matter back to the CAI for an assessment by a differently constituted independent review committee.